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Suicide bomber kills 13 in eastern Afghan city

AFP , Sunday 17 Jan 2016
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At least 13 people were killed when a suicide bomber struck the home of a prominent politician in Jalalabad Sunday, officials said, in the second deadly attack in the eastern Afghan city in less than a week.

The Taliban shrugged off responsibility for the bombing, which also left 14 people wounded on the eve of a new round of four-country negotiations aimed at restarting peace talks with the insurgents.

The latest attack came during a "jirga", an assembly of tribal leaders, at the home of politician Obaiduallah Shinwari, who escaped unscathed.

"Thirteen people were killed and 14 others injured when a suicide bomber targeted the house of Shinwari," said a statement from the governor of Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital.

Shinwari is a well-known member of Nangarhar's provincial council and his family is said to be actively involved in local politics.

The bombing is the latest deadly attack in the city since Wednesday, when Islamic State (ISIS) militants claimed responsibility for a four-hour gun and bomb siege targeting the Pakistani consulate.

All three attackers and seven security forces were killed in the assault, the first major ISIS attack in an Afghan city and on a Pakistani government installation.

The group, which controls territory across Syria and Iraq, is making gradual inroads in Afghanistan, challenging the Taliban on their own turf.

The militants have managed to attract disaffected Taliban fighters increasingly lured by the group's signature brutality.

In a sign of their growing reach in Afghanistan, the group has taken to the airwaves with a 90-minute Pashto-language radio show called "Voice of the Caliphate".

The government has said it is trying to block the broadcast, which is beamed from an undisclosed location and aimed at winning new recruits.

The uptick in violence comes amid renewed international efforts to revive peace talks with the Taliban, locked in a tussle for supremacy with ISIS in Afghanistan.

Last week representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China met in a bid to revive stalled Taliban peace talks, even as the insurgents wage a brazen winter campaign of violence.

The so-called "roadmap" talks were meant to lay the groundwork for direct dialogue between the Afghan government and the Islamists to end the 14-year Taliban insurgency.

The four-country group is set to hold the next round of discussions on Monday in Kabul.

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